Dates: 1945-1971 [Vancouver] 1972-1979  [Sardis, BC]

Location: 4316 Fraser Street, Vancouver, B.C.; 2nd location: 2910 West Broadway, Vancouver, B.C.

People:  David Lambert, -d.1985. Retired Canadian soldier, member of the British Ceramic Society, established the first commercial production pottery in Vancouver, BC, designer of kilns, considered the ‘god-father’ of BC pottery industry, part-time teacher at Vancouver Art School, one of the originators of the BC Potters Guild. Married to potter Elfrida Vivien Marlon-Lambert, (1918-2015).

The Beginning: Lambert Potteries Ltd. began by producing similar items to pottery found in European countries. Lambert felt this needed to change; he was “in a new country doing a new thing in that country.” At the time, there was no established or indigenous BC ceramics or pottery industry – First Nations Coastal peoples did not make pottery; rather they used natural elements such as cedar bark for utilitarian and ritual wares – and only a few amateur BC potters used local clay as it was too expensive to import from Medicine Hat, AB and Saskatchewan. David Lambert realized the need to create pottery that represented BC’s coastal culture – he began to create “something that would be new and yet old at the same time”, pottery that represented the regional system, something that could be recognized as “truly pertaining to the country in which we live.” He incorporated West Coast first people’s designs used on everyday objects onto pottery and created WEST COAST INDIAN DESIGNS ON HAND MADE POTTERY.

NOTE: Elfrieda Lambert made some mugs for the Charles Laughton Theatre, run by the Chilliwack Players Guild in the 1960’s (info from Richard Hollins)


1a: Sample of West Coast Indian designs

West Coast Indian designs

1945-1960: china clay from Giscombe Rapids, Fort George, BC; deposits of red clay from clay pits in the Fraser Valley; iron-bearing earths from local deposits, traditional sources for ceramics-grade clay

Varied – a hybrid of industry and handicraft: pottery thrown on a potter’s wheel, jiggered on a jigger (a type of mould-making process), hand pressed into shapes, hand painted designs by Lambert and employees, fired, glazed, re-fired, cooled.

Plates – 7”, 9”, 12”
Bowls – small, multi-use, thrown bowls, egg-cups
Cream & sugar sets
Jugs – beverage
Mugs – wheel thrown beakers, coffee mugs, steins

West Coast Indian Designs were inspired by West Coast First Nations images.

Lambert found that the best results came about if the pottery shape was formed to the design rather than the design modified for the shape. Design names from Lambert’s The Story of West Coast Designs:

Spindle Whorl design [Salish]

  1. Bear Crest [Tsimshian]
  2. Beaver [Haida]
  3. Cannibal Bird no.1 [Haida]
  4. Frog [Haida]
  5. Grizzly Head [Tlingit]
  6. Growing Nose Mask [Kwakiutl]
  7. Housk’ana, the Fisherman [Haida]
  8. Killer Whale [Haida]
  9. Killer Whale, Big Fin [Haida]
  10. Mosquito [Haida]
  11. Hooyah, the Raven [Ancient Haida]
  12. Raven [Kwakiutl]
  13. Raven Two-Winged [Unknown tribe]
  14. Raven as Thunderbird [Unknown tribe]
  15. Beaver [Tattoo mark, Haida]
  16. Thunderbird & Killer Whale [Haida]
  17. Ancient Thunderbird [Unknown tribe]
  18. Ancient Killer Whale [Unknown tribe]
  19. Ancient Sea-lion [Unknown]
  20. Dog Fish, Salmon [Tsimshian]
  21. Northern Killer Whale [Haida]
  22. Southern Killer Whale [Haida]
  23. Eagle [general use]
  24. Bear [Dance Mask, Kwakiutl]
  25. Sword Whale [Haida]
  26. Bear [Dance design, Hoorts]
  27. Eagle [Dance design]
  28. Bear [Totem, Haida]
  29. Dragonfly [Haida]
  30. Thunderbird [Carving design, Haida]
  31. Raven inside Killer Whale [Carving design, unknown]
  32. Bear [Dance design]
  33. Flicker (bird)  [Haida]
  34. Owl [Dance mask]
  35. Shaman’s Mask
  36. Many Figured Bear design
  37. Dragonfly [Simple tattoo]
  38. Thunderbird [Bella Bella?]
  39. Sea-wolf [Haida]

Designs not mentioned in D. Lambert’s published pamphlet, The Story of West Coast Designs: on Hand-made Pottery with 40 Authentic Stories and Myths of the Coast People [1960] – see Research page, Additional Resources

  • Little Stick Brewing Dance,1969
  • #38 Lightning Snake, 1972
  • #44 Man in the Moon, 1972
  • Wolf
  • Little Stick Hunts Belch the Bison David Lambert Sardis B.C. 1972 Canada
  • Little Stick Paternity Dance David Lambert 1978 Sardis B.C. Canada
  • Little Sticky Fertility Dance  David Lambert 1967   [Comments]
  • Little Bear “David/65”; [imprinted] Lambert Potteries Ltd. Handpainted Vancouver, B.C.

These design numbers and names were supplied by collectors [comments] and based on pieces in their collections:

  • #38 Sisiutl Dragon  [marked #38 Lightning Snake]
  • #39 Thunderbird
  • #40 Sea Wolf
  • #45 Skookum
1e. Lambert Potteries plates, #21 Killerwhale, #11 Raven, #30 Thunderbird, marks

Lambert Potteries marks


Information taken from David Lambert’s pamphlet, The Story of West Coast Designs and Rachelle Chinnery’s article, “Significant Material: Ceramics of British Columbia 1945-1960”.

Check out Lambert Potteries Ltd. – Revisited.

Additional information can be found here.

Some photos used with permission by Rhode Island Internet Consignment & Sales

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Keith McKewan
1 year ago

Very informative. I remember them well, I sold Kla-How-Ya cards to some of the same stores.
When “Images Stone B.C. ” was at the Vancouver Planetarium I went to see it and it became a life of learning about Native Culture.
There is much flack about people coping Native Art, but for me it was the start to the real story.
P.S. A few years ago I had a Native Elder come and visit, I did not know here well,mother of a friend of mine ~
I greeted her with Kla How Ya, she started to cry, I said I’m sorry. No thats O.K. My mother would say that, and I haven’t heard it for many years.

2 years ago

Thank you for providing such a heartwarming story. I found killer whale #9 coffee mug thrifting. A wonderful piece of art from our west coast!

Gerry Silver
3 years ago

Is there a way I can send Lambert Potteries pics to you without reducing the file sizes ? — I have some pics of early Lamberts that I am sure a lot of collectors may not have seen — cheers, Gerry

Gerry Silver
3 years ago

Hello, I am a long time Lambert collector with over 300 pieces — I would like to make a correction on your numbered design list —- #38 is Sisiutl Dragon in the book yet the pieces are marked #38 Lightning Snake (same critter) — #39 is Thunderbird & #40 is Sea Wolf —– then there are the ones not in the book — I have #44 Man In The Moon & #45 Skookum —- there are also many Little Stick designs as well as several early miscellaneous pieces —— I do not know if you have a buy / sell resource or newsletter, yet I am selling many of the “1st Nations” design pieces & am also looking for some of the same, specifically #5 Grizzly Head, #8 Killer Whale, #14 Raven – 2 winged, #25 Sword Whale, #28 Beaver & #35 Shaman’s Mask — willing to trade 2 for 1 for the right pieces —- thanks & cheers, Gerry